The Power of Integration – Using a Topic Wheel to Study Music

We've been having fun with topic wheels in our home lately to generate fun dinner conversations.  My son and I are studying music theory this year with a text book called "Math in Motion" and have really learned a lot. We decided that we would center our conversation around music and see what we could come up with!

Music Topic Wheel

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Music in the Bible

Music Topic Wheel

The kids decided to start our conversation off this time with music inspiration from the Bible.

Trumpets came to mind first.  Trumpets were used in Old Testament battles and knocking down the walls of Jericho.  Eventually trumpets will be used in the last days as judgment expressed in the book of Revelation.

Music was a memory device used in songs to help the people recall the faithfulness of God.

David wrote songs of worship, and angels sang to worship the newborn king.

Even the word "hallelujah" comes from the name of God.

The Bible was a great place to start.

Music in History

Just like Moses wrote songs to help the people remember, Martin Luther wrote hymns to teach the people of the 1500s the truths of the Bible.  They didn't have access to the scriptures, so he made it accessible through song.

Other people became famous for writing and playing music like Bach. We've been reading his biography lately, and have been fascinated by the music saturated life he lived!  He was most well known for being a phenomenal pipe organist of his day.

Historically drums have been used in executions, and in modern warfare, music is blasted across enemy lines to communicate secret messages.

All throughout history, music has been used as a way to express deep emotion in relation to current social injustice.  This video expresses that emotion in a familiar song, sung in a minor key, with unfamiliar lyrics.  It's a beautiful example of the power of music.

Math Expressed in Music

Classically speaking, music is one of the seven liberal arts.  Specifically, it's in the quadrivium, which is studied after the trivium is mastered. The quadrivium consists of geometry (shapes), astronomy (shapes in motion), math (numbers), and music (numbers in motion).

Each music tone is a representation of a frequency that can be graphed.  When those frequencies overlap they either result in harmony or cacophony.  Check out this video that explains this concept:

Some ideas the kids had about where math is expressed in music is rhythm.  The value of a note in a measure is represented by a fraction. When you count out the beats in a measure you're dividing.  I love this video by Clayton Cameron in which he demonstrates what he calls "A-rhythm-etic"

Music Geographically

Music Geographically

Music is something that is experienced and enjoyed all around the world.  While everyone enjoys music, the expression of it can be very different depending on your geographical location. Irish play bagpipes, Africans play drums, and Australians play didgeridoos.

Songs can be sung in many different languages and still express the same emotions even though not everyone might have the same opinion about a particular expression!

Different regions of the US enjoy expressing music differently like the jazz in New Orleans or the country in Tennessee.

The Science of Music

Music offers an abundance of wonder when you consider the way different frequencies effect different substances.

How does a high pitched frequency break glass?

Why do different amounts of water in glasses make different tones when tapped?

Does music actually make you smarter?

Does it change your mood?

Can it activate different parts of the brain to make you study better? (All of my kids believe this is true and are living test subjects of their hypothesis).

How do music producers adjust the pitch of a singer to perfect their music?

These were just a few questions that we came up with when thinking about music and science.

Poetry and Music

Our last topic was poetry.  Poetry and music go hand in hand because they both are designed to engage the imagination in picturing what the writer or artist is trying to communicate.  Poetry has rhythm and meter like music.  It also expresses mood and tense just like music does.

When you pair a poem with a melody, both are enhanced.  The meaning behind the unspoken tune is heightened by a well written verse.

Music is everywhere!  Try this conversation topic wheel at your next family dinner with this simple printable with conversation prompts.  Click here, or on the image below to download a topic wheel to help with your conversation!

Music Topic Wheel

What inspires you about music?


  1. Tammi on February 26, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    I just ordered the Math in Motion book and this post makes me even more excited to start!

    • Betsy on February 26, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Yay! I hope you enjoy it. I’ve found that everything makes so much more sense when you’re sitting at a piano!

  2. […] enjoyed reading Betsy’s article on using a topic wheel to discuss music.  Isn’t it exciting to see how subjects are […]

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